Byline: Hamish Bowles
Every French schoolchild should be familiar with the resonant words that Napoleon delivered at the triumphant height of his Egyptian campaign in 1798 to his troops gathered beneath the Sphinx: "From the top of this pyramid, 40 centuries look down upon you." Christian Louboutin was one child whose dreams they unleashed. And so, at the tender age of fifteen, this precocious youth (who was already dancing on tabletops at stylish Parisian nightclubs like Le Privilege) absconded from high school with a friend and found his way to Egypt, having been seduced both by tales of the pharaohs and by an Agatha Christie-ish vision of art deco shenanigans on the Nile. School authorities might have taken a dim view of Louboutin's protestations of sickbed invalidism when he finally showed up for class three weeks later with a glowing tan, but by then it was too late. Louboutin was hooked on the country and its epic history.
On that first trip, he remembers, "I really hated Cairo-it was too much of a chaotic twentieth-
century city for me. It's Oriental but also very Western." Luxor, however, with its Valleys of the Kings and Queens, the Colossi of Memnon, and other wonders of the ancient world, is "really Africa, deep Egypt with a real sense of everything I had been reading about in my schoolbooks." Up the Nile, there was a more leisurely and romantic vision of traveling and tourism that was closer to the eighteenth- or nineteenth-century ideal.
Louboutin's dream was later nourished by another Parisian friend, the distinguished archaeologist Francois Larche, the …